Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

1 Jan

As with every IMAX Thanksgiving potluck, I test out my annual holiday dessert that I make a number of times across the various social gatherings.  This year, I picked a not-so-seasonal dessert and went with the chocolate and earl grey combination.  I had seen a number of different recipes pairing those two flavors together, but the Real Simple one caught my eye.

The texture of the bundt cake is great.  You get a nice crust that’s reminiscent of a brownie, though no where near as thick, and the inside is moist.  I’ve made this with full-fat sour cream subbed for the yogurt, used nonfat greek yogurt, and whole fat regular. There wasn’t a big difference in flavor with any of those versions.

Chopped Baking Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea

Chopped Baking Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea

Here’s the recipe!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
  • cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • eggs
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-cup fluted tube pan with cooking spray.
  2. Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and set the brewed tea aside.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate.

    Butter, Eggs, Sugar, Chocolate

    Butter, Eggs, Sugar, Chocolate

  4. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. [NOTE: If you use a stand mixer to blend the ingredients in this step, it will make a huge mess even if you start it on low.  I’ve made this four times to date, and it’s happened every single time. I would recommend whisking everything in until everything is just combined.]
  5. Pour into pan. The batter will be a little runny.

    Batter is lighter than it finishes

    Batter is lighter than it finishes

  6. Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool.
  7. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

    Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

    Chocolate Earl Grey Bundt Cake

I ended up making 5 of these between Thanksgiving and Christmas between all of the family dinners and potlucks.  I would say the only pain is cleaning the crevices of the bundt pan that ALWAYS have crumbs stuck to them!

Pintuck Apron

21 Dec

For Jamie’s birthday nearly two years ago (yes – still drowning in a sea of backlogged posts), I made this fun little pintuck piece since she’d told me she was in the market for an apron.  I found the tutorial on Wholly Kao, and wholeheartedly accepted the challenge.  And boy, was it a challenge!

I don’t think I’ve made something this difficult since those baby booties a few years ago.

Here’s the tutorial as adapted from Wholly Kao, but having the diagrams she drew in her tutorial will really help you:

ITEMS:

  • 1 yard fabric for the apron
  • 1/2 yard coordinating muslin (for the waist strap and ruffles)

INSTRUCTIONS:

MAKE THE TOP:

  1. Measure the distance between your armpits to get the width of the chest. Take this width and subtract 4. This new number will be how wide your top part is at its widest point. Measure from your chest to your waist to get the height.
  2. Take your patterned fabric and measure out a piece that is slightly larger than the width and height dimensions you just measured. Fold the fabric in half width-wise.
  3. Using a Sharpie, draw your top shape onto the folded fabric. This shape should look like a heart with a flat bottom. The widest point of this ‘heart’ is your (chest width minus 4 inches) measurement. Cut along your Sharpie line. You’ve now got your top piece! You can measure it against yourself to make sure it’s not too wide. If it is, trim it accordingly.

    “Heart” chest piece

MAKE THE BOTTOM:

  1. Measure out a piece of fabric for the bottom part that is 36-inches wide. The height for this can be as tall as you want. For instance, if you want the apron to hit mid-thigh, measure the distance from your waist to your thigh and use this number as the height. Spread the fabric out and cut out the corners so that they’re rounded. (see diagram)
  2. Now it’s time to make the pleats along the waist. Take the fabric at the top of the wide side and fold it accordian style and pin it in place. Do this only in the middle, leaving 6-inches on either side of the folds. Next, sew the folds in place, 1/4-inch in from the edge (see red dotted line in diagram).

    Tuck and Pin

    Tuck and Pin

  3. Pin the top and bottom part together on the wrong side. Sew the two pieces together on the wrong side, 1/4-inch from the edge.

    Coming Together

    Coming Together

MAKE THE WAIST STRAP:

  1. Cut a strip of muslin fabric (I chose a coordinating periwinkle shade) that is 5-inches tall and as wide as your bolt of fabric. Sew the ends of two of these straps together on the wrong side, making one really really long strap that is 50-inches long (This piece will tie around your waist, so you want to cut the length to fit you).
  2. Fold the strap in half, making a 2.5-inch tall piece. Pin the ends together, then iron the fold flat.
  3. Sew around the edges of the strap (red dotted line in diagram), 1/4-inch from the edge. Be sure to leave an opening on one side, so you can flip this piece inside-out.
  4. Flip the fabric so that the raw edges are now on the inside. Then sew the open edge shut (red dotted line in diagram).
  5. Now take the apron fabric and cut two strips that are 3-inches tall. Sew these together to make one long strip 50-inches long.
  6. Fold each edge in 1/4-inch and pin in place. Iron flat. Center this strip on top of the white strip and pin.

MAKE THE NECK STRAP:

  1. Cut a strip of apron fabric that is 2-inches tall for the neck strap. (The length of this depends on you: if you want a strap that is easy on and off, you can always put a buttonhole/button in the middle of this neck strap.)
  2. Fold the strip in half, making a 1-inch tall piece. Pin the edges together, then iron flat. Sew along the edges, making sure to leave an opening on one side. Once you’re done sewing, flip the fabric inside out.

MAKE THE RUFFLES*:

*If you want, you can just buy pre-made ruffles by the yard at the fabric store instead. If you do that, skip to “Assembling the Pieces Together”.

  1. Take the muslin fabric and cut it into strips that are 2-inches tall. Sew three of these together, making one really really long strap. Fold the strap in half.
  2. Make small pleats all along the fabric, pinning them in place as you go.

    Pleat, Pin, Repeat

    Pleat, Pin, Repeat

  3. Sew the ruffles in place, using the zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.

    Remove Pins as you Sew

    Remove Pins as you Sew

ASSEMBLING THE PIECES TOGETHER:

  1. Take the sewn edge of the ruffles and line them up with the raw edges of the front side of the apron, so the ruffles lie on top of the patterned part of the fabric. Pin the ruffles around the apron this way, then flip the ruffles out so that they look like this (diagram).

    Apron Hem - Finished

    Apron Hem – Finished

  2. Sew the edges together on the wrong side of the fabric. Then iron the front of the apron, where the fabric and ruffles meet.
  3. Pin the neck strap in place behind the ruffles.
  4. Now it’s time to sew everything together! Sew all along the apron, 1/4-inch in, making sure you sew the edges of the ruffle, as well as the straps in place.

    Neck Strap

    Neck Strap

  5. Last step: attaching the waist strap. Center the waist strap between the top and bottom pieces of the apron, and pin it in place. Sew along the edges of the inner fabric on the strap (red dotted lines on diagram), making sure you’re attaching the apron to the strap in the process.

    Waist Band - Finished

    Waist Band – Finished

Here’s the finished product:

Pintuck Apron - Finished

Pintuck Apron – Finished

And here is the birthday girl!

Birthday Girl!

Birthday Girl!

While the apron turned out pretty cute (if I do say so myself) in the front, it was just a hot mess behind it.  Lots of thread everywhere from places I went over and fixed, and I had a lot of thread-breakage issues for some reason with this project. I thought the tutorial was great with getting me to the end product, but there wasn’t a lot of thought put into covering up the unsightly back of the apron fabric.

Totoro Cake Toppers

18 Dec

Writing my not-so-recent paper post reminded me that I needed to share this other little DIY from our wedding!  Kevin and I don’t have an aversion to wedding cake, but I think majority of wedding-goers aren’t typically into it. In menu planning, we challenged our amazing caterer to come up with some awesome mini dessert ideas that would satisfy everyone, and they definitely delivered. We had tiny cookies with shots of milk, salted caramel pot de cremes, mini strawberry shortcakes with orange biscuits, and mini ice cream cones with cookies and cream ice cream and peach sorbet!

Totoro Cake Toppers

Totoro Cake Toppers

I think one of our family members told us we “needed” a cake to cut, so we got one from Cookie Casa, my all-time favorite bakery that sadly has recently closed. We opted for a five-inch chocolate cake with a gorgeous blush rosette buttercream.  In my search for the perfect cake toppers, I probably came across every single Star Wars cake topper the universe had to offer and somehow didn’t love any of them.  ESPECIALLY the Luke and Leia cake topper… someone needs to correct those people. Seriously.

Kevin and I also love studio Ghibli, and I found these Totoro painted dolls on Etsy. The colors were perfect!

Before - Naked Totoros

Before – Naked Totoros

They needed a little something more, so I made a veil with a headband out of tiny pieces of tulle ribbon and fabric ribbon from the 99 cent bin at Michael’s. Jo-Ann Fabric had a cute little daisy chain lace that I just cut a teeny piece from as well to use as a veil garnish.

“Bride” Supplies

I found a black version of the ribbon and cut a tiny little bowtie together for the grey Totoro, and used superglue to adhere everything as it was the least likely to show up on the paint.  Here’s the handsome couple below!

After - Not-As-Naked Totoros

After – Not-As-Naked Totoros

Since the figurines weren’t “food safe” and we opted for that floral frosting pattern on our mini cake, we decided to forgo adhering a food safe bottom liner to the toppers and just had them placed next to the cake.  Unfortunately, it was a hot day so don’t mind our melty top hat of a cake.

Totoro Cake Toppers

Totoro Cake Toppers

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

7 Aug

In celebration of Shirley’s birthday last month, we decided to do a potluck/wine tasting. Shirley, Spencer, Leslie, Tri, Kevin, and I contributed wine from our favorite vineyards, and everyone brought something for dinner.

Leslie and Shirley's App Spread

Leslie and Shirley’s App Spread

I volunteered to do dessert, and an ice cream cake seemed like a great idea to cool us off in the midst of the crazy heat wave.

Shiriley's Roasted Garlic Chicken

Shiriley’s Roasted Garlic Chicken

I knew Shirley liked tiramisu, so why not combine the two and do a tiramisu flavored ice cream cake?  I ended up combining various parts of three different recipes from Martha Stewart and The Delicious Life.

Shirley's Sausage and Penne

Shirley’s Sausage and Penne

Here is the combined recipe, which was a big hit with our group:

Vanilla Sponge Cake

INGREDIENTS:

  • softened butter, for pan
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 C cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg/sugar mixture to a large bowl. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk attachment.

    Sponge Cake Batter

    Sponge Cake Batter

  4. Beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until whites hold soft peaks (about 2 minutes). With mixer running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.

    Stiff Peaks!

    Stiff Peaks!

  5. Fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. In three additions, fold the flour mixture into eggs. Pour cake batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes (start checking on the cake at about 35 minutes).

    Vanilla Sponge Cake

    Vanilla Sponge Cake

  6. Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes, then invert to remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C strong, freshly brewed espresso (I used espresso powder and hot water)
  • 1/3 C coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua (optional)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Sponge Cake (above)
  • 1/4 C finely ground espresso beans
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1.5 pints coffee ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
  • 1-1.5 pints chocolate ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
  • Chocolate curls or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C mascarpone cheese
  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 T sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place sugar and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in espresso and Kahlua. Let the syrup cool.

    SO. MUCH. CAFFEINE.

    SO. MUCH. CAFFEINE.

  2. Using a serrated knife, cut sponge cake in half horizontally, making two layers. Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using a pastry brush, brush with 3/4 cup cooled syrup. Sift 2 tablespoons ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder over cake.

    Brush Syrup Over Cake

    Brush Syrup Over Cake

  3. Place coffee ice cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake; top with second layer of sponge cake and press down gently. Brush with remaining syrup. Transfer cake to freezer for 20 minutes.  If your springform pan leaks liquid like mine does, be sure to put your pan on top of a baking sheet or foil first.

    Sift Cocoa Powder and Ground Espresso

    Sift Cocoa Powder and Ground Espresso

  4. Remove cake from freezer; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Place chocolate ice cream in a mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake, forming large swirls. Return to freezer; freeze until completely hardened.

    Spread Softened Ice Cream

    Spread Softened Ice Cream

  5. While cake is freezing, make the marscarpone cream. Beat mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy, about 60 seconds, and then transfer to another bowl.  In the same mixer bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form, slowly adding sugar if you want to sweeten it.  Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cheese. Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Then spread over top of cake, and garnish with chocolate curls or sift 1-1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder over top.

    Whipped Marscarpone and Cream

    Whipped Marscarpone and Cream

I started with two pints of ice cream, but my springform pan was not big enough to hold everything so I really think 1 pint each is enough.  I also topped my cake with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder just to create an even layer with no marscarpone showing through (as below), and all six of us took turns choking on the cocoa powder.  Unless you want the same affect, perhaps scale back to about 1 tablespoon overtop.

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

 You can also sub the chocolate ice cream for espresso ice cream if you want more of a very strong coffee flavor.  For the ground espresso, I went to Intelligentsia for their Black Cat espresso which is the best espresso in LA in my opinion.  It turned out that the barista helping me was an avid baker as well, and we ended up having a lengthy conversation about the wonders of adding coffee in chocolate desserts.  Long story short, she gave me about $8 worth of ground espresso for free!
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake

Year One – Paper

31 Jul

Kev and I have been in the thick of home shopping the last couple of months and decided to take a break with a trip up the central coast.  Our first wedding anniversary last month was the perfect excuse for a little food and wine adventure in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.  It was a great little extended weekend getaway to just reflect on what we’ve accomplished together and as individuals in the last year, and also reminisce a bit on our wedding day.  With the traditional “first year” gift being paper, we both agreed to just get each other cards since we were doing the trip and buying a home.  This reminded me to share some of the paper elements from our big day, beyond the stuff we created with the watercolor suite.

Year One - Paper

Year One – Paper

We had the traditional Japanese 1000 origami cranes as one of our motifs.  I didn’t start folding until about six months before the wedding.  I did 800, and several friends helped fold 400.  Yes, I was 200 over.  While I’d like to chalk that up to being an overachiever, I think in my frantic need-to-get-things-done mentality and balancing a very busy season at work, I somehow lost count and ended up making a lot more than I needed to. Oops!

For my non-Japanese friends, here is a little description of the significance of the cranes that we had on the back of our menus at each place setting during the reception:

1000 Origami Cranes

1000 Origami Cranes

Being fifth generation Japanese, I wasn’t planning on folding them but one of my distant aunts basically guilted me into doing it with a “You’re not Japanese if you don’t have the cranes. If you don’t do it, I’ll fold them all myself with my old lady hands.”  In the end, I think we were able to find a way to subtly include them and without having to end up with a crane-themed wedding.

Lining the Aisle

Lining the Aisle

We used the cranes as aisle markers, on each place card, and scattered them throughout the venue.

Place Cards with Mini Cranes

Place Cards with Mini Cranes

Another of my favorite paper elements was the perfect wedding day card that I found for my groom.

Til Death Star Do Us Part

Til Death Star Do Us Part

In lieu of a guestbook, we printed small cards using the “print suite” we had for people to write words of advice, date night ideas, etc.  I made a small bunting to decorate the vintage breadbox we used for people to drop the idea cards into after.  The font is the same font we used on our wedding invites, but a bit bolder, and the triangles were cut from a piece of gold glitter scrapbook cardstock weight paper.

"Cards" Bunting

“Cards” Bunting

I found a free watercolor image online and tweaked the color slightly to align closer to the blush we were using, and used that as a backdrop for several of the signs we created, including the reserved signage for our parents, bar menu, the 1000 cranes memo above, photobooth signage and the hashtag sign.  The gold ribbon was leftover from our invitations.  (PS – florals by the amazing Jamie!)

Reserved Signage

Reserved Signage

I think that about wraps it up for the paper elements of our wedding.  As I was looking through our photos for the paper crafts, I realized I have one more DIY project to share soon!

PS – Did I mention that all of these photos were taken by the AMAZING and highly recommended Rodney Ty Photography??

Happy First Anniversary, Kevin.  You’re done with year one of your life sentence.  I love you.

Shut Up and Dance with Me

Shut Up and Dance with Me